65-yr-old female rebel leader held in Iloilo
ILOILO CITY—A 65-year-old woman, tagged by the government as a top communist rebel leader, was captured in a raid here early yesterday.
Maria Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, who carried a P7.8 million prize on her head, was detained at Camp Martin Delgado, the headquarters of the Western Visayas regional police force.
Bocala, popularly known as Concha Araneta, is allegedly the secretary of the Panay Regional Commitee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said Senior Supt. Peter Naboye, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) which conducted the raid with military intelligence operatives.
Bocala is also the spokesperson on Panay Island of the underground umbrella organization National Democratic Front (NDF).
Maj. Ray Tiongson, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said Bocala’s arrest could result in a leadership vacuum in the CPP in Panay.
She had been charged with murder and rebellion in courts in Antique and Aklan, which issued warrants for her arrest.
But Bocala’s lawyer, Janne Baterna, said Araneta’s arrest was illegal because she was supposed to be covered by immunity for being a consultant of the NDF in peace talks with the government.
Baterna showed the Inquirer a copy of an ID card and safe conduct pass issued to Bocala under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
The pass, with serial No. ND978245, was issued to Remi Estrella, a nom de guerre of Bocala, by Luis Jalandoni, NDF chief international representative and head of the negotiating panel of the rebel group. An old photograph of Bocala is on the pass.
“Her arrest is illegal because it violates the Jasig,” he said.
The Jasig is a key agreement signed in 1995 by the Philippine government and NDF to ensure the safety of both government officials and rebel leaders involved in peace talks.
NDF has repeatedly accused the government of violating the terms of the agreement by arresting consultants of the rebel group. But the military has accused the rebel group of using the Jasig to shield rebel leaders from arrest.
Baterna said he will also request for medical tests for Araneta, who is suffering from pneumonia and diabetes.
The arresting team raided a house in Barangay Calumpang in Molo District at 6:15 a.m. where Bocala and two other companions were staying for a week.
A CIDG officer, who had knew details of the operation, said Bocala was staying in a room at the back of a bungalow-type house that was surrounded by a concrete fence with iron grills.
When operatives barged into her room, Bocala tried to block the door as she shouted: “What is this? Who are you?”
She calmed down and was composed when operatives told her they had a warrant for her arrest. They said she suffered bruises.
Her companions—Joseph Cariaga, believed to be her nephew, and Annielyn Soldevilla, allegedly her aide or helper—were also arrested.
Police recovered at least P200,000 in cash.
Police also claimed to have found in Bocala’s house a grenade, two handguns, bullets, a laptop, mobile phones, hard drives, compact discs and a floppy disc.
Chief Supt. Bernardo Diaz, said charges of illegal possession of explosives and firearms would also be filed against Araneta and her companions.
Araneta is among student activists from the University of the Philippines who went underground after the First Quarter Storm, which refers to the wave of massive protest rallies against the Marcos Dictatorship in the early 1970s.
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